College Touring 101: From the Perspective of a Younger Brother Being Dragged Along for the Ride

Touring colleges can be a rather daunting task, especially if you're looking for the place that you'll be spending the next four, or more, years of your life. This task can seem even more overwhelming if you are exposed to it before you're mentally ready to even think about college; when you're only in the second year of high school! Well, that's where I come in.

I am currently a sophomore in high school and my older brother is a senior. I have been touring colleges with him for the past year. We have visited many colleges that vary from small to large, "reach" to "safe" schools, and everywhere in between. The only thing I have taken away from these visits is the fact that I now know where I don't want to attend school.

All the colleges we visited didn't suit me for many reasons. But then again, this was my brother's college tour. Not mine. The campuses themselves were extremely dull and always lacked one thing, though I'm not entirely sure what that one thing was. I got bored of the campuses extremely fast (and I was only there for a couple of hours!) I couldn't imagine staying there longer than I needed to let alone live there. But again, I needed to remind myself that my brother and I have different interests, so these were "his" college choices, not mine.

One clear thing that factored into my disliking of the places we visited was the food. It was like a flashback to the third grade where the portions were small and the food was bland. There were usually only a couple of main eateries on the school grounds, along with a few smaller cafes. The food was not necessarily bad, but it surely wasn't good. I could not imagine having to eat from the same three options (Chinese food, a burger or pasta) for the rest of my college-filled years.

So, now that I've expressed my distaste for the schools that we visited, let me tell you about the visit itself. I'll break it down into two parts: an info session and a tour of the campus. The info session would always be held in either an auditorium or one of the school's lecture halls (which are usually used for introductory courses.) Statistics and other "important facts" about the college that meant nothing to me usually ensued. These info sessions were generally held by an admissions representative from the school. They would always ask everyone where they were from to help warm up the crowd and make everyone feel comfortable. In one of the info sessions, the person running it started cracking jokes about New Jersey because there were so many of us New Jerseyans in the room. It was in a very lighthearted tone, but it just goes to show how unappreciated Snooki is.

Being from New Jersey came up in another visit, but this was more of an embarrassing moment which was self-inflicted. As I previously stated, the person running the info sessions would usually ask everyone where they were from. The head of admissions kindly asked everyone to raise their hands by region. Those from New England were asked to raise their hands. My brother kept his hand down since New Jersey is obviously in the mid-Atlantic region. (We are Yankee fans here, not Red Sox so that's a telltale sign.) But my mom, who obviously was still thinking she lived in New England, coaxed him into raising his hand. When the lady asked us where in New England we were from, my brother said "New Jersey," which caused an uproar of laughter from the entire auditorium (Oh, happy days.) The lady then corrected us saying that while the fine folks of New Jersey may like to consider themselves New Englanders -- the state is firmly situated in the mid-Atlantic. Mind you, this was one of the more competitive colleges we visited, so not too embarrassing to be so off on our geography!

All the other info sessions were not quite as eventful, actually they were very uneventful, and I found it hard to stay awake during the other ones, usually because we had to wake up at the crack of dawn in order to get to these colleges that were a couple of hours away that held 10 o'clock info sessions. After I wake up from my slumber, more commonly known as an "info session time," the campus tour begins. Students from the school usually file in and introduce themselves, and share their prospective majors. Families would then choose who they would like as their tour guide. We would usually choose someone who was a computer science major and, if no one with that major was available, then we'd find someone studying design or art, since that is what my brother is interested in.

The tour, as implied by the name, would take you around the campus, and usually included historical information about the college, while taking you into each building. As previously stated, I disliked the majority, if not all, of the schools we attended. Each campus just seemed so similar to each other and they eventually just melded into one long distant memory. During the tour, we would be taken into each individual "college" -- one for design, engineering, etc.-- and they all just seemed so similar that even now I can't differentiate between them.

We would also be taken to the main social hubs on campus, which were always empty for some reason, and were told old campus traditions. I unknowingly broke one of them which was, if you were to walk under this tower, which I did, you would not graduate from this college in four years, which means that I will not be attending this school. Occasionally we would get to look inside the dorm rooms to see what living there was actually like. A very unique experience available at some colleges that I was able to witness was the specialty housing. At one college, these were dorms where an entire level is devoted to a certain interest -- varying from computer science to photography and much more. I was able to get an inside look on what living in one of these houses was like and I was really surprised. My family got a private tour of the computer science house and it was nothing like I had ever seen. They had totally modified the floor to fit their persona with things like your theme song playing when you enter the floor, among other things. I was blown away, and a little scared to be honest. The hallways were dark and everyone was blasting music. They even had their own carpentry room! It was definitely not for me, but my brother thought it was cool, which is good since it's for him not for me.

Any who, if you are the younger sibling or the third wheel on a college visiting tour, don't fear! Even though the entire experience can be overwhelming don't freak out! There is no pressure on you at all and no expectations for you to do anything. That's for the brother (or sister) you are visiting with. Just enjoy the ride and use it to get a sense of what you like and don't like so when it comes time for you to tour colleges, you not only know what to expect, but you also know your preferences. Good luck with the touring!